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Troy Lambert Posts

George and the Achievers Part 2:

What Authors (and others) Can Learn About Marketing from the Achievers and George Takei

Part 2: Make the Connection

lost puzzle pieceIn part one of this series we introduced The Achievers and George Takei, two completely different types of internet phenomena. We looked at their core audience. You can read that post here.

So they had a solid fan base: core fans. You have them too, whether you are an author, or a business. How do you connect them? They may be scattered all over the world. What tools do you use to bring them together?

Internet Forums. The achievers used the birth of social media: an internet forum to share the word about their passion. Fans gathered around a little known film released in the late 1990’s, and found they had more in common then they at first realized. Some even made love connections in the group. More modern forms of these include Goodreads, Kindle Discussion Boards, and Facebook Groups.

Facebook. Originally a social media outlet similar to MySpace, Facebook took off and became an advertisers dream: millions of reachable customers and fans all gathered in one giant stadium. The problem is, you are one hot dog vendor among thousands, and your customers are scattered throughout the seats. How do you get them to come to you, to “sit” in your section? Once they sit there, how do you make them all want to buy your hot dogs? George has used this with amazing success. He has over 3.8 million “likes” and 3.5 million of those talking about and sharing his posts!

Twitter. In 140 characters or less, you need to get a message out there. A message that compels, that speaks to a specific group, and a message that they will see and share. George has over 600,000 followers. And those who say you have to follow to get followers? Look at George’s balance here: 622,000 followers, he follows 57. He may be the exception to the rule, but you don’t have to follow those you don’t want to follow to glean followers.

These are the tools: Now how do you use them? In part three we will discuss this, but here is the basic premise, and therefore your homework. Have a message. Every day have something new to say. Pretty tough? Yes, tougher than it looks.

Last week, you started to follow George on Facebook if you weren’t already doing it. You were supposed to pay attention to what he posted and when. This week? Do the same with Twitter. Follow George here and just observe: What does he post? When? What gets Retweeted? Favorited?  Let’s see what we can learn from those who are already doing something well.

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Select a Charity

Another of my stories has been accepted in an anthology. It is titled “The Angel.” It is different than my usual stories. How is it different?

Here are the guidelines given for the anthology: the story must based on a fairy tale, have something “undead” as one of the characters (i.e. ghost, angel, zombie, etc.), and it had to have a happy ending. My stories don’t always have a happy ending. In fact, I’ve been accused of writing dark fiction. I’ve been accused of worse too, but that’s another story..

My story is based on the less known fairy tale “The Angel” by Hans Christian Anderson. He based that story on his poem “The Dying Child.” My characters, of course, are angels. So far, everyone who has read the story has wept.

So I decided quite awhile ago that if the story was accepted, I’d donate half of the proceeds from my royalties from this story to a children’s charity.

This is where I need your help. I’ll take suggestions, we’ll narrow it down with a survey or two, and we’ll take a vote. Comment with suggestions and website links, or e-mail me here.

T-shirts, prizes, and fun will accompany the release and the charity choice. An event page is coming to Facebook, but for now follow my author page here, and I’ll post the details there. Follow me on Twitter, and share with your friends and family.

Below is the poem, “The Dying Child.” Stay tuned for more!

The Dying Child

Hans Christian Anderson

Mother, I’m so tired, I want to sleep now;
Let me fall asleep and feel you near,
Please don’t cry–there now, you’ll promise, won’t you?
On my face I felt your buring tear.
Here’s so cold, and winds outside are frightening,
But in dreams–ah, that’s what I like best:
I can see the darling angel children,
When I shut my sleepy eyes and rest.

Mother, look, the Angel’s here beside me!
Listen, too, how sweet the music grows.
See, his wings are both so white and lovely;
Surely it was God who gave him those.
Green and red and yellow floating round me,
They are flowers the Angel came and spread.
Shall I, too, have wings while I’m alive, or–
Mother, is it only when I’m dead?

Why do you take hold of me so tightly,
Put your cheek to mine the way you do?
And your cheek is wet, but yet it’s burning–
Mother, I shall always be with you . . .
Yes, but then you mustn’t go on sighing;
When you cry I cry as well, you see.
I’m so tired–my eyes they won’t stay open–
Mother–look–the Angel’s kissing me

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George and the Achievers

What Authors (and others) Can Learn About Marketing from the Achievers and George Takei

Part 1: Your Core Audience

ent37How does a star of a television program that aired in the late 1960’s rise in social media to have 3.8 million followers, sell out a musical performed at the Globe in San Francisco about Japanese citizen interment in the United States during World War II, and influence opinion nationwide about marriage equality and LBGT rights?

How do Will Russell and Scott Shuffitt go from tattoo vendors at a convention in 2002 to international sensations by 2009, hosting conventions centered around a movie released in March of 1998 with minimal success and a small cult following?

You’ve written a great book. The people who have read it that are not your

 mother, father,

 brother, sister, cousin . . . you get the idea, have told you so. Not enough of them have read it though. How do you get it noticed? How do you go from a small book with a

small cult following to an international sensation? What can we learn from the two examp

les above?

 

Disclaimer: I am not a master marketer. I am just learning some of these things myself. I don’t have 3.8 million followers, and I haven’t filled a convention center in Las Vegas with 4,000 people to watch an old movie together and quote movie lines. I’m just a writer like you, trying to tap into the mystery.

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What George and the Achievers have in common:  Both started with a core group of fans, gathered around a single idea. George started with Trekkies. Basically a core group of geeks who followed one television series. (Yes, I am one. So what?)

The Achievers began as two guys who loved the movie The Big Lebowski and started quoting movie lines back and forth at a tattoo convention. They noticed they weren’t the only ones quoting lines, and decided to have a party at a local bowling alley, where fans could bowl and watch the movie while drinking White Russians. By 2009 there were gatherings around the world, and fans were traveling thousands of miles to “official” conventions.

The secret? They both started with a core group of fans, centered around one thing they had in common. When those people gathered, they found they had other things in common. George expanded his audience by embracing one of his passions. It may have alienated some, but it gained him a great following.

So how do you do the same thing? Ask yourself: what do all of your fans have in common? What is a passion they all share, that would also appeal to other people and draw them to your work?

A hint: the common factor is not your book. Not yet. What’s the theme of your book, the central idea, that would draw people to read it? Why did you write your story, and why does it resonate with others?

Of course, this is only the first step that both George and the Achievers took to build a fan base. We will look at the next step next week. Until then, you have homework. Follow George on Facebook if you don’t already, and watch what he posts and when. Second, watch the documentary The Achievers and watch their idea take off. Here’s a link to the trailer. Now write on!

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Suspend Reality (for readers)

RealityTV01-07-11What is the balance between reality and the unreal, between truth and fantasy? As a reader, how much truth do you want? Let’s face it. Reality is boring. We read to escape reality, not to study it. That’s science, another topic for another day.

24: It’s a good example. Jack Bauer drives from Oakland to LAX in ten minutes, something we know to be a 45 minute drive with no traffic and some bending of local speed statutes. But for the sake of the show, we also don’t want to watch Jack drive for 45 minutes while his world falls apart miles away. We root for him to get there, to fix it in time. After all, he’s the hero.

At some point though, the put on drama gets to be too much. We want a dose of reality. Can jack really get the crap beat out of him and an hour later fight a hoard of spies, who apparently, despite their taxpayer-funded training can’t hit a thing with their pistols? Is he the only expert shot in the group?

Balance: One of the keys to keeping you hooked is balance. As a reader, how much can you take? What is the point where you shut off the show or movie, walk out, or put the book down never to go back to it? How much fiction is too much fiction?

Taking itself too seriously: There’s a difference between James Bond or Jackie Chan and Fast and the Furious, Torque, and Biker Boys. What makes one group better than the other? A part is that the latter group takes itself too seriously. (you can say what you will about how good or bad they are). If the unreality is portrayed as “hey we know this is unrealistic, but it’s fun to watch/read” the viewer/reader is more inclined to tolerate suspension of physics (i.e. Batman). As a reader or viewer, what’s the breaking point for you? When is it too much fun, and not enough reality? When is it too much seriousness and not enough fun?

The author’s job in whatever he/she writes is to take you out of reality, and make you believe for a little while that dragons exist, people fly, and the universe is close enough to travel to if you have the right warp drive or worm hole. Tell us readers, what makes these things believable to you? What draws you into a story?

Feel free to leave comments. We love to hear all of your ideas.

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Readers, Do you Review?

applauseI can’t count the number of times a reader as e-mailed, texted, messaged, called, or used another means of communication to say “Hey, your book was awesome!” Sometimes I ask them to post a review if they are a fellow author, or I know they have reviewed other things. If they’re not I just wait and see what happens. Most of the time, they don’t post a review anywhere.

Why review? Reviewing is a great way to let your friends know what you are reading, and get them talking about what you are talking about. How do you think that Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code got to be all the water cooler talk? Reviews, and friends telling friends. (Besides Christians decrying its harmful effects on our culture, but that’s another story for another time). If you found something enjoyable, thought provoking, or just a read you couldn’t put down, share that with as many people as you can. An easy way to do that is to review: on Goodreads, Amazon, and elsewhere.

Reviewing sells books. “I’m a reader and you are an author,” you say. “Why do I care about selling books?” Because if the author you like sells more books, it frees up their time from working as a waitress at a truck stop to write more books. Hopefully you will like (and review) those books too. So on the cycle goes, until your favorite author is able to write for a living. Thus, more good books.

What if the book is bad? Should I review? This is a tough one. As an author, I want to say “No! Only good reviews.” However, as a reader (yes, authors are readers first) you have to ask yourself why you didn’t like the book. Did you just not like the genre or the authors writing style? Then my answer would still be “no.”

However, if the book is poorly edited, has a storyline that just doesn’t work, someone needs to tell the author or publisher, even if they are one and the same. You can do this by contacting the author (if that is possible) or by leaving an honest review. If you are going to be negative, try to include some positive, and state clearly the reasons why you left a negative review.

Don’t ‘Revenge Review.’ I have one negative review on Amazon for my book Redemption. It was written by someone who gave it a five star review, then disliked something I said on social media, and then dropped the review to a one star. If you are going to review, be professional about it. That person had a review site: their credibility as a reviewer is shot now (I wasn’t the only one they did this to). Be polite and kind the same as you would in any other social situation, as if the author was standing right in front of you.

In a sense, they are. They are waiting with breath held as you read, waiting to hear what you think. Okay, maybe not really. They are probably writing. But hearing good things encourages them. Sometimes that’s all they need to make their day, and keep writing.

Meanwhile keep reading. Know that we as authors appreciate you, even if you don’t write a review.

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I Wrote a Book and No One’s Reading It!

megaphone-man01I hear writers say it all the time. It starts with the release party, which they expect to be a huge success with a huge draw. I always cross my fingers hoping for their sake that it will be. Unfortunately when it isn’t, the author is usually shocked. “I built a platform,” they say. “I have followers and friends on Facebook. Why didn’t they all buy my book?” We’ve been talking about this in a few writers’ groups and here are some of the common mistakes authors make, and why their books don’t sell more.

Most of your friends/followers are fellow authors. When I first started on Facebook I did the same thing. So while my friends list is well populated, there are a lot of authors’ names there. Those authors are struggling with the same thing I am: finding readers. Because they are connected to other authors. Who are connected to authors. On the cycle goes.

What woke me up was after a media blitz I asked myself the simple question: “When is the last time you bought a book because it was in a promo from anther author?” Other that authors that I have already read their work (and thus become a reader or a fan if you will) I can’t remember. I find new fiction through publishers and friend recommendations, but rarely through a “cold” promo even from a fellow author. Other writers are just like you. Most have day jobs, are trying to write so they’re busy and don’t read many new authors especially outside their chosen genre, and are trying to cultivate readers of their own.

Smart Reviewers, readers, and other authors don’t promote work they haven’t read, or when they don’t know (and trust) the author. “Please retweet” or “share with your friends” works with some readers, but most feel they have a reputation to protect. I want readers to know that if I recommend a book it is because I like it, and I like it because the writing, editing and story are solid. What you recommend reflects back on your writing and your reputation. Don’t promote randomly to get followers, and don’t expect others to either. I’ve read dozens of books in the last couple of years. I’ve left 23 reviews on Amazon/Goodreads, etc. The reviews I do are few and far between (I won’t leave negatives unless the work is totally offensive, but will contact the author and let them know what I think if I know them well enough).

True readers don’t just download a book because it’s free. Okay, Kindle Select can do something for your rankings temporarily. But as a marketing tool from a business standpoint, it only makes sense if you have other “paid” items that your free book drives them to. Those that do download books just because they are free aren’t real readers. They may drive your numbers, but they won’t glean you reviews, and they won’t bring you future sales. There is a strategy to giveaways, and if you’re going to do them, get good advice and follow it.

The best thing you can do to build a stronger reader base is to write more. Read this great article by Hugh Howey and his advice to aspiring authors. Write your book. Send it off to a small press or publish it yourself. (More on the big six another time). Then continue to write and promote your work. No one will market it but you. Keep at it long enough, and the readers will come.

Remember, there is no such thing as overnight success. If it came overnight, likely it came after a long period of hard work that finally paid off. Keep Calm, and Write On.

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Five Stars: Parallax View

5155kx8aTKL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-64,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Book Description:

It’s spring, 1987, late in the Cold War, and CIA clandestine operations agent Tracie Tanner is tasked with what should be a relatively simple mission: deliver a secret communique from Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

After smuggling the document out of East Germany, Tracie believes she is in the clear. She’s wrong. A shadowy cabal is work, people who will stop at nothing to prevent the explosive information contained in the letter from reaching the White House.

Soon, Tanner is knee-deep in airplane crashes and murder, paired up with a young Maine air traffic controller and on the run for their lives, unsure who she can trust at CIA, but committed to completing her mission, no matter the cost…

My Review:

 One thing you can always count on with an Allan Leverone thriller is that it will pull you in, and you won’t ba able to stop reading until you reach the last page. This thriller is no exception. You can’t help but care about the characters, and turn the next page to find out what happens next. For a little while you’re transported back in time and you believe that a lone air traffic controller dying of a brain tumor and a wounded CIA agent may just prevent World War Three. But until the very last moment, you have no idea the sacrifice it might require.

Another hit from an author that combines the tech-savy writings of Clancy with the thrill rides suspense of Koontz. If you haven’t read his stuff, and you aren’t following this guy, you’re missing out on one of the next big superstars of the thriller genre. Five stars without a single reservation.

Buy Parallax View here and check out Allan’s other work here.

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Why Use the F-Bomb?

 

f_bomb

It’s a fair question. A variety of people read your writing. Why would you alienate some by using certain words? What’s the purpose? It goes along with one of the ten cardinal rules for writing: Use Dialect Sparingly. What does that mean?

 

First, certain people use the f-word and others don’t. In Redemption Sam Johnson uses it with some frequency. He also has a certain dialect. However, Sam has just spent 17 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. If you had spent that much time in prison, you might say F**K too. As Kurt Vonnegut said, “My characters speak coarsely because people in real life speak coarsely.” However, if your character is a Harvard educated librarian, and she uses the f-bomb outside of extraordinary circumstances because you want to shock your reader, delete that scene and start over. Only use such words realistically.

 

Don’t overuse the salt. Dialect and cuss words are like salt in the pages of a book. Some adds flavor, and too much ruins the plot. Your characters don’t have to speak proper grammar all of the time in dialogue and it’s okay if they cuss. But don’t turn your reader off by overusing it to the point where they are tired of it. Foul language has gained more acceptance in modern fiction, however moderation is the key.

 

Suspend disbelief. Your job as an author is to make me believe, just for a little while, that what you say is happening in your book is really happening. You want it to play like a movie in my skull. You want me anxious to see the next scene, to long for the finish, not dread the next time your character opens his mouth. This is a tough lesson to learn, and if I could have some of my young writing back, I would likely do some things differently.


What’s the answer then?
Use the f-word or any other cuss words like dialect or salt in a soup. Don’t overuse them. Do use the f-word for sailors and prisoners, don’t use it for librarians and old maids. Think about your reader. Is this believable? Will they forgive your use of the word here even if they don’t like it because it feels real? If you can answer “yes” you’re probably on the right track.

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